How do you feel about your sound? Not your pitch or your projection or your vibrato. Your SOUND.
If we all agree that the violin is the closest instrument to the human voice, then it doesn’t seem a far leap to suggest that your sound should be your very highest priority.
So often, we are distracted by pitch, bow technique, left hand pyrotechnics, and everything that makes the violin sound virtuosic. There are so many tremendous things that the violin can do, it is easy to be seduced away from what the ear and the heart truly want: beautiful sound. Neglected, it can detract from your performances, interpretations, and the compositions themselves. Without a fully developed tone, your connection with the audience is hindered. Like a bad radio signal, the message you are trying to deliver is marred, distorted.
The tone you produce as a violinist is like your signature. If you hone your craft enough, it can be recognizable anywhere on any piece. It can tell a story, project an emotion, take our breath away, and even develop a following! Love them or leave them, the most revered players in the world have a sound which is iconic and totally their own.
Beginning methods of violin place great importance on the sound and beauty of tone. This is clearly the highest priority and rightly so. So much of basic technique centers around the ability to create beautiful, clear sound. But then, virtuosic technique starts to take off and fancier literature catches our ears. If a student isn’t careful, their journey to their signature sound gets off track. Getting a young student to practice a lyrical piece and focus on drawing a beautiful spiraled tone is a hard sell when they have Sarasate showpieces to explore!
But here’s the thing. There comes a point in a young violinist’s life where I believe it is imperative that they take the time to explore their voice on the violin. They need to take the time away from the virtuosic literature and fall completely head over heels in love with their own sound. It is what makes them unique and is the conduit for everything they are trying to communicate. All of the bells and whistles of violin aside, think of how you feel when you shut out the busy parts of the life and quiet the voices in your head. Gorgeous sound isn’t about being impressive or flashy or loud. It is about being understood, centered, and clear. After all, we were human before we were violinists. Is there anything more satisfying than playing a perfectly written lyrical piece and having the audience quietly hanging on your every bow stroke? We need that connection in our lives and so does the audience.
I remember playing single phrases for hours in a room in my tiny house growing up. I would bend sound this way and that way, adjusting pressure, speed, and sounding point in small increments. We were way past playing in tune or clean in my studies – I wanted to express something more personal, subtle. It was at this point in my training that I grew the most. I looked forward to my practice. It became my personal haven with no end point. I was in love.
So on Valentines Day, it seems fitting to share this blog with my fellow violinists and students. Take some time today to explore your unique voice. It’s our musical superpower as violinists and everything else can wait. Go ahead – fall in love!Tweet
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